The internet has made the world a much smaller place. It has also given rise to an increasing number of businesses competing for their share of the market. If you're not careful, these competitors will capture your target audience's attention before you even get the chance to make your case.
If you want to stay ahead of the pack, you need a plan. Not just any plan, but a plan backed by data, analysis, and strategic insight. That's why establishing a competitive intelligence program is more important than ever before.
But what exactly is competitive intelligence? And how does it work? Here's everything you need to know about this crucial process.
What is Competitive Intelligence?
Competitive intelligence (CI) is an important component of any business strategy. A process that allows you to not only be more strategic in your own decision-making, competitive intelligence also increases awareness of your competitors and how they're performing. This is done by analyzing data from different sources, including personal observations.
An ongoing competitive intelligence program can provide you with powerful insights into your market, the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors, and opportunities for improvement and market entry.
This analysis will help you understand your competitors, their market positioning, messaging, key performance indicators (KPIs), and how they relate to your own market standing.
What is Competitive Intelligence used for?
A competitive intelligence program has many uses, the first of which is to consistently and objectively gather market and brand insights. With a competitive intelligence program, you
can understand the dynamics of the market in which you're competing so that each move you make can be truly intentional.
Competitive intelligence is also a key piece of understanding your customer. It offers insight into their behaviors, informing shifts in competitive messaging that will resonate with your target audience.
Moreover, competitive intelligence keeps your finger on the pulse of the market you are operating in, including everything from the size of the market, to developing a pricing strategy that makes you more competitive in the markets you serve.
Want to stay one step ahead of your competition? Then competitive intelligence is key. By developing an effective competitive intelligence program, you can identify new and emerging market opportunities before anyone else jumps on them.
Competitive intelligence is also used to develop effective messaging and sales strategies, win/loss analyses, and an overall communication plan that is based on the realities of your market -- not just your perception of it.
How Does Competitive Intelligence Work?
There are two main areas that should be included in a competitive intelligence plan: data gathering and data analysis.
To gather the data you'll need, you first need to create a list of your competitors. This includes both direct and indirect competitors.
Then you need to decide how often you're going to check on the metrics you've identified as relevant - you can do this daily, weekly or monthly depending on what's most appropriate for your business.
Then, you will need a plan for how you're going to go about gathering the data. Data can be sourced from many places, including direct brand research, industry publications, trade shows, and exhibitions, or by investing in competitive intelligence services, like those offered here at Craft.
Look inside, not just outside
For all you know, your competitors are analyzing you just as you are analyzing them! This is why looking outside and making strategic judgments about your competition is only the tip of the iceberg. For a truly comprehensive analysis, you must also look inside your own company for insight and perspective too.
Start by reflecting on the following questions:
What issues and opportunities has my company faced in the past?
How have we responded to these challenges?
Where are we now?
These questions shouldn't just be answered off the cuff, though. Rather, take an objective, data-driven approach here, too, by reviewing your own company's performance over time. The more you know about your own company's historic metrics, current challenges, and successes, the more insight you'll have into where competitors may arise and what moves they might make.
By being self-reflective, you can pinpoint internal and external weaknesses and threats, while capitalizing on the strengths and opportunities that can set your brand apart.
Competitive intelligence is an integral part of any company's success. If you want to thrive in the market, then you should understand your competitors and yourself. Only then will you be equipped with the perspective needed to make truly strategic decisions that will set you apart and keep you on top!